Gracie May's aunt attacks Michael Kereopa

The family of Gracie May McSorley (Newshub)
The family of Gracie May McSorley (Newshub)

A man charged with the manslaughter of a six-month-old baby has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Father of two Michael Kereopa was left in sole charge of Gracie May McSorley, in Raumati Beach in July last year.  She died from injuries likened to those suffered in a high speed car crash.

What happened to Gracie?

Justice Ellis said Gracie May's mother, Charlotte, had told Hereopa not to pick Gracie up while she went out, even though she was grizzling.

"When Charlotte returned you were sitting on bed, Gracie was in her cot lying on her tummy.  You said she was breathing funny and had vomited.  You didn't say she was limp and her eyes were rolling around in her head."

She didn't have a temperature so she was left to sleep.  Later, when Charlotte rolled her over she noticed her eyes and lips were puffy.  She got her up and could see bruising on her side and behind her right ear.

Then Gracie May started convulsing.

An ambulance was called and Charlotte performed CPR until help arrived.  Gracie May was flown to Wellington hospital by helicopter.  Surgery was unable to relieve the pressure on her brain.  She was put on life support and died the following day.

The injuries suffered were likened to those suffered in a high speed collision or from severe blunt force trauma.

Justice Ellis said Hereopa suffered a "momentary but cataclysmic loss of control".

None of his later recounts were consistent with her injuries.

Justice Ellis said Hereopa had changed "lives of joy to lives of devastation".  

"Charlotte has been deprived of wonderful milestones she should have shared with Gracie."

Hereopa was sentenced to eight years in prison, with no minimum.

Outside court lawyer Bruce Hesketh described Hereopa as "very remorseful" and said eight years was in the "right range".

Gracie May's aunt, Victoria Balmforth, said eight years was not enough.  It should have been "a life for a life".

"To have such an innocent soul taken by the hands of another is so devastating. Gracie was such a beautiful baby, she had her mother's dopiness, her aunty's face, her nana's cheeks and had stolen the hearts of her family."

32-year-old Hereopa was in a relationship with Gracie May's mother, Charlotte, for six months. Charlotte has another infant daughter, Isabella.